Dear Dr. Debbie,
My daughter apparently had a spat with her best friend at preschool today. What I gathered from her sadly reported tale was that they were playing “house” and at one point they both wanted to be the baby. Neither was willing to give in so my daughter walked away (in tears, she told me) for some “alone time.” Sure enough, there were tear streaks on her cheeks. She is pretty sure this other little girl doesn’t want to be her friend any more. Should this calamity be taken seriously, or should we just expect that tomorrow things will be as they always have been between them? Out of school we have had several play dates at each other’s homes and they generally play well together – as well as most children their age.
Standing By With Tissues
Don’t miss last week’s column OUCH! When a baby bites another baby — Good Parenting
My hunch is the relationship is secure but just hit a momentary bump in the road.
A friendship is a very important possession at any age. Friendship assures you of welcome company, makes the fun times more fun, and helps the hard times be more durable. Having a friend also proves you are friend-worthy – in other words, of value to others. Whether your friend always has your best interests at heart is a good question, and one that a young child is inexperienced in having to ask. Those of us fortunate enough to have had many years of good friendships know that regrettable actions and forgiveness are part of the package.
I suspect that one or both of the children may have been challenged by any one of a number of reasons for being unyielding at this particular moment. These include: being tired, feeling hungry, or having had one-too-many frustrations in a row. Too bad the teacher wasn’t close enough to catch on to the children’s conflict and distress. That’s another reason it escalated to the hurt feelings your daughter described. A close eye on social interactions at this age can give adults prime opportunities to teach empathy and conflict resolution techniques. Had she been aware of what happened, even after the fact, the teacher might also have helped to reassure your daughter that this is a friendship strong enough to withstand a quarrel.
Please continue to support the children’s friendship through play dates. You might work in some hints (and exaggerated modeling) about how turn taking works as they play. Remember that one of the main reasons a young child cannot easily wait for a turn is that she lives in the moment. “Later” is interpreted as “Never.” So, use the second hand of a watch or the timer on your phone to help her pass the seemingly endless span of sixty seconds – after you model for her that you are able to hold off your own turn for a full minute. It can be as much fun to set and watch the timer as it is for her to take her turn that your daughter will soon learn that “in a minute” really does mean that her turn is coming.
There’s a perfect picture book, originally published in 1961, about the normal friction that can occur between playmates who, after all is said and done, would rather be together than apart. Written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Let’s Be Enemies depicts a typically turbulent friendship between James and John. After pages of complaints about his discontent with James, and the many ways he plans to get back at him, John ends up asking James to play. Read the whole book online at Brain Pickings or buy a copy to have for your own. Its message never gets old.
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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.